I've spoken about my personal journey over the past six months in comments a few times, but I felt the need to make a post about it, mostly as catharsis for myself, but if it helps other people out, that would be cool too. Also, I may be doxxing myself a bit here, which is a little unavoidable if I want to tell this story accurately. I'd appreciate not being stalked.
I'd like to detail my journey of what is, so far, the most difficult time in my life, what I've been doing to cope, how I'm doing now, and what the future may hold for me. This may be a little long and detailed, but I'll try to hit the high points.
Lets start at the beginning here.
I'm a 34 year old part time military officer in the US. I met my ex wife years ago, in high school originally. We were casual acquaintances back then. We had a couple of classes together, and I would tease her a little bit (I was immature when I was young, and totally unable to communicate well with girls). We went to prom together, but mostly lost touch after high school.
After college, I came back to my home town, started developing my career in IT, hanging out with friends and coworkers. One of the people I worked with happened to be dating a girl who was good friends with my ex wife, and we started all hanging out, and reconnecting. My ex confessed that she always had a crush on me, and started actively perusing me. It started out as a casual relationship that I didn't see going anywhere, but it lasted. Eventually, I fell deeply in love with her, and we moved in together a short while later.
I was so devoted to this woman. We were so alike in so many ways. We shared the same interests, the same type of humor, we developed our own language and style of communication. I had never really seriously considered wanting kids, and over time and a bunch of thought, I decided that I didn't really agree with the institution of marriage. In my mind, when two people love each other, that should be enough, and either party should be free to walk away at any time without any legal burdens or extra hoops to jump through, because I wouldn't want someone to be obligated to stay with me for even one minute.
Both things were really important to her however, and we almost broke up over it. Eventually, after spending time with kids, and some deep introspection on my own part, I came around on kids, and coming around on kids almost necessitates coming around on marriage. You don't need to be married to have kids, of course, but it certainly provides a more stable environment and smooths out a lot of practical, logistical concerns. I asked her to marry me shortly after that, after five years together, in 2016.
What followed were the happiest couple of years of my life. My wife had worked her way up in an accounting firm, she was managing a department, on track to become a partner in a few years. She had so much determination, ambition, and grit. It made me glassy eyed to think about how proud I was of her, all the personal growth and progress she'd made since I knew that girl in high school. I was developing a successful career in network engineering as well, and frequently flying out for short stints and conferences and design meetings. We were still best friends, and always wondered about people in unhappy marriages. Why couldn't they just be like us? Why were we so good at this?
We took trips together, we watched shows together on the couch, I couldn't get enough of her.
Her job had always been stressful, but some time around 2018, the stress had come to a head. She was frequently working until 10pm on week nights during her busy season, then she'd come home, down a few glasses of wine, go to bed after me, and wake up far too late, continuing the cycle of stress. This continued on for a few months. I tried to be there for her, prepare meals, support her however I could, but to little avail. She was angry, stressed out, upset all the time. She'd cry from the stress frequently, and was totally unable to cope.
One day, she came to me with a proposal. She would quit her job and start her own business. I always knew that she wanted to do that eventually, but I had hoped it would be after she had amassed significant savings to do it. Her business idea was to start a tabletop gaming cafe. We had gotten pretty deep into board games and TTRPGs, and she thought that with her business sense and accounting knowledge, she'd be a perfect fit to do this job. I agreed with her, but a significant part of me thought that it was a massive risk, and financially, we were on the cusp of being truly independent. This would set us back a few years in the best possible scenario. She was my wife though, and I saw what this job was doing to her, so I agreed.
She would work six more months while planning, save her money, and then quit to start this venture.
As everyone told us it would, it did not exactly go according to plan. Securing a location and funding was far more difficult than she anticipated. She was stuck waiting for 8 months for a location that didn't pan out. She wasn't used to having to push people and follow up and annoy people to get them to do what they'd say they did, all of that was new for her. No one would extend a small business loan to an unproven entrepreneur with a fairly novel business plan. All in all, between the location, and the build out, and delays with licensing and permits, she mostly waited around for two years. In this time, I could see she was spiraling. She'd wake up at noon and do puzzles or binge watch tv all day. At night, she would go out drinking with her friends. I would join sometimes, but I couldn't, and didn't want to most of the time because I was just exhausted from work.
Around this time, I discussed with my ex wife, and took a new position in the military, and got word that I would be deploying in 2020. I'm a leader of about 150 people, and preparing for this kind of thing is extremely involved, so I was working a lot. Meanwhile, my ex wife was going out constantly, 3-4 times a week, and coming home absolutely wasted. Sometimes she ubered, but other times she drove. In late 2019, I told her that I was concerned about how much she was drinking, that I thought it was unsafe. This was a bit of a wakeup call for her, as she had struggles with alcoholism in the past. She told me she was going to stop drinking and start going back to AA. I told her that if she thought that was what she needed to do, I would support her. She started her sobriety journey, and things started improving. She still was in limbo with her business, but construction was at least starting, she could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In spring of 2020, I left for my deployment in the middle east, hopeful and optimistic. Her business was coming along nicely, I was taking this fairly prestigious position, and I was excited. We were sad to be apart, and it was heartbreaking to say good bye, but I'd see her again in ten short months.
The deployment was stressful, but rewarding. I accomplished a lot of things I'm very proud of while I was out there, and about halfway through, my wife finally opened her business! This is where things started taking a turn. She was unable to secure funding still, so she basically dumped all of her debts on my lap. She never directly asked me for the money, but she worded it in such a way that I couldn't really refused. "Hey... so the contractors are asking for their 60k... I don't have any way to pay them... so... I need to figure something out". Of course, she was my wife, I had the money, why would I say no? I had always been very good at saving, and had a decent amount in investments. All in all, I spent about $160k directly funding her business. It was an emotional, somewhat sickening feeling parting with that much money. My life savings more or less. This wasn't part of the plan, and I was upset at her for putting me in this position.
I told myself that it was ok. This was an investment in us. She'd make that back eventually, and what's hers is mine and what's mine is hers. Besides, this was my wife, and above all else, I wanted her to be happy. I stuffed those feelings of pain and resentment down, and continued with the deployment.
During the whole time I was gone, I would get messages from her about how hard it was being alone, how difficult taking care of the dog and business was, how lonely she felt, how much she missed me and she couldn't bare it anymore. I felt truly awful, but there was very little I could do 10,000 miles away. I texted with her often (the signal wasn't so good for live video or audio calls). We would sext a bit, exchange nudes to try to tide each other over, but I could tell she was struggling in that area as well.
About five months in, that kind of thing abruptly stopped. At the time, I thought she was learning coping strategies and adjusting to life with me gone. How little did I know.
This winter, I came home finally. Stepping off that plane into the terminal, a few hundred yards away from my wife was the most excited I've ever been in my life. I was giddy, there was a huge smile on my face as I walked down the concourse in my uniform, and the first glimpse I got of her standing there, my god, it was like being in the desert and stumbling upon a pristine oasis. She had requested that my parents not be there, so against my better judgement, I told them that they were not to come, but I didn't think about that at all. She was standing there in a ratty sweatshirt and jeans, but she was still the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I went up and hugged her tightly, kissed her, and told her how much I loved her. Having her in my arms after so long was just such an amazing feeling.
We went back to her car, and things quickly became much more... 'clinical', I'd say. Instead of feeling like we hadn't seen each other for ten months, it was like we were just hanging out on the couch after a long weekend, talking about practical things very quickly. It didn't really strike me as odd at the time, only now looking back on it.
We went home, had sex, I got a burger, we were content. The next week or so, that same 'clinical' feeling persisted. She took one day off of work, then went back, saying that because the business was so new she couldn't take much time off. Fine. I stopped by the shop often, but every time I was there, I got a cold feeling from her and her employees, like I wasn't truly welcome. She would come home late each night and we'd watch something or have sex, but I didn't really see her much. I really wanted to go do a trip together, spend some quality time together, but it didn't pan out. I spent my time fixing up the house which she'd let fall into disrepair or playing video games to relax.
One night, a week later (February 9th), I'm up late waiting for her to get home. 12:30 rolls around, no word from her. 1:00, nothing. Finally I message her, ask her when she's going to be home. She said she got caught up at work, and would be staying over her friends house for the night. A bit odd as her friend lives maybe 1/2 mile down the road, but whatever, she told me she'd been staying with this friend a lot while I was gone to stave off loneliness, so maybe she just misses that. I go to bed alone disappointed.
The next day, she comes home at 10, I'm on the computer. She sits down on the couch, and doesn't say anything. I can tell she's upset, so I ask her what's wrong. No answer. I turn the computer off and walk over, and ask her again.
She blurts it out. "I want a divorce".
This didn't even register for me. I didn't even hear her at first. After a few seconds, I just immediately assumed she was joking. It was a frequent joke of ours "You don't like this movie? We're getting a divorce!" it was one of many things we did to mess around.
I smiled a little, then it vanished. "Wait... you're serious?"
My head fell into my hands. "I don't understand... why?"
The reasons she gave me made no sense. I wasn't affectionate enough. I wasn't outgoing or social enough. She didn't like the nicknames I gave her. Stuff that had never come up before, and besides, I'd just been gone for close to a year, why are these suddenly issues now?
I thought, easy, I can fix all of that stuff no problem. We'll go to couples counseling. No, I'm tired of counseling (We never did any form of counseling together).
Okay, lets take that trip, lets work on the marriage. No, I'm tired of fighting.
None of it made any sense. She had to run some errands, I asked if I could come, I just needed to spend time with her and get to the bottom of this. She went to work. I stopped by, tried to get some clarity. She reiterated the same points, said that we don't communicate well. Referenced a fight we had at a party 3 years ago where we didn't talk for a day. I barely even remember what the argument was about. I hugged her, whispered to her that I can't lose her. She responded "Wellllll.....". That night, she told me she was staying at her mom's.
I talked to a friend of mine who is a divorce attorney a couple of days later. He told me that he hates to bring this up, but 99% of the time in situations like this, the wife is cheating. I hadn't done any snooping until then, but she had an old phone at the house. I opened it up. There it was in black and white. She'd been having an affair with one of the regular customers at her store for six months. "I love you baby" "I can't wait for us to be together" "You make me so happy".
I wanted to vomit. I wanted to break things. I wanted to murder this guy. I wanted my wife back. I felt so much rage, confusion, sadness, worthlessness. I couldn't bring myself to be mad at her though. When I read it, I was on the phone on my friend, and exclaimed "That fucking BITCH!", but I didn't really mean it. Not my beautiful wife. It was the guy's fault. He corrupted her. He was insistent and wore her defenses down. He turned my wife against me.
I contacted a divorce attorney that day. The marriage was over, I knew that now. What followed were the worst two months of my life. So much self loathing and depression. Anxiety. Panic attacks. How could I have not seen this? Where did I go wrong? Why did I go on that deployment? Why didn't I call and text my wife more? What did this guy have that I didn't? My friends and family helped, but some advice was better than others. "Just don't think about her" is not good advice, FYI.
I enrolled in therapy for the first time in my life. It helped a little, not a lot though. I kept up with my gym routine, which did help. I spent a lot of time walking my dog.
Eventually, I called my ex, and I told her "I want to do this quickly and with as little emotion as possible. I have a lot of things I'm feeling right now but I'm not going to bring them up because I want this to go smoothly." I never told her that I knew about the affair. My lawyer said it could only hurt things. Eventually we came to a settlement. I'd keep the house, my dog, my investments, etc. She'd keep her business, including the bulk of the capital I'd spent on it. The lawyer said this was a good deal. I still felt like I was getting fucked. I gave her that money less than a month before she started cheating on me. It was a complete slap in the face.
I spent a lot of time curled up in a ball crying. Prior to this, I hadn't cried in fifteen years. Little things would trigger me. A text from her about finances. Someone telling me about her shop. A smell that reminded me of her.
Two months after our separation, I started dating again. I met a wonderful woman, she sold exotic plants for a living. Empathetic, kind, beautiful, smart. It didn't work out. She needed someone in a more stable place. Looking back it was too soon.
I kept up with therapy and the gym, they both helped a little. I've gone on a couple more dates since then, nothing has really stuck. I'm still struggling with feelings of self confidence/attractiveness.
All in all, I DO feel better than I did, but I still don't feel great. I've been trying to expand my hobbies, I'm playing kickball now, I've picked up surfing. I'm trying to force myself to be a little more outgoing and social. I'd like to make new friends also, but not a ton of luck there yet. I do still cry sometimes. The other day, I was driving home from a bar, taking a route I used to take with my ex when we came from the movies. I remembered how happy I was with her by my side back then and started crying on the way home. I really hope that happens less. It's really unpleasant.
I have lately been feeling like I'm in a little bit of a rut. It's been six months and each week flies by with me doing much of the same thing. Video games at night, work during the day, gym in the afternoon, maybe a date here or there. I wouldn't mind maybe moving to a new city, but the thought of that and all the work that's involved, and having no friends is frankly terrifying to me. I do know that I don't want to live life like groundhog day. I want to experience more new experiences.
As far as I know, my ex wife has gone public with her relationship with the guy she left me for. By all outside accounts she seems happy, but who knows, I don't really keep tabs on her much and only communicate with her regarding a payment she owes me from the marriage. I've come to redirect most of the anger I had towards the guy at her instead. I am extremely bitter towards her and what she did, and I probably always will be. I don't see forgiveness in my future any time soon. I wrote her a letter after the divorce was finalized detailing that I knew everything she'd been doing, and assuring her that what she did was irredeemable, and no matter how she justified it in her head, it was not ok. I don't know if she ever even read it. She's still never apologized for what she did, and I doubt she ever will.
As for me, I'd like to get to a place where I'm happy by myself. That'll be a long road I think, as even before I met my ex, I wasn't happy alone. I'd like to go amass new experiences; see the world, live in new places, do things I've never done before. I feel like I'm getting old, and I haven't done the things I want to do yet.
I'd also like to find someone to fall in love with again. I love having a partner around and I'd be sad if I couldn't find someone to connect with like that again. I've been doing online dating, but man, it's really rough out there. I far prefer meeting people the way I met my ex, but you can't force that.
I hope that I continue to get better. It feels like a kind of plateau right now. If I compare how I feel now to the happiest moments of my life with my ex as a 10, and the month right after the separation as a 1, I would say I'm at around a 5. Not horrible, but not very good either. I hope that number steadily increases, with or without another person.
One "gift" that this whole experience has given me is self awareness of my emotional state. I feel a lot more in tune with the way I feel. I know when I'm having a bad day, and I usually know if I'm feeling bad just because I'm tired, or because I haven't had caffeine, or because something triggered me.
I also feel a lot more deeply now. I cry during emotional scenes in TV shows, I have highs and lows, whereas before I remember even telling my ex that emotionally, I felt a little numb. That could be a good thing depending on how you look at it.
Anyway, I know it was a little long, and if you read it, thank you. If you've got any questions or comments, feel free to leave them, and if this is inappropriate for this board, please feel free to let me know and I'll remove it.